James Buchanan: The Only U.S. President Never to Tie the Knot

James Buchanan (1791-1868) was the 15th President of the United States. A Democrat from Pennsylvania, he was President from 1857-1861, and probably best remembered as one of the most negatively viewed presidents in our nation’s history. He is consistently ranked as one of our worst presidents, mainly because he was president as tensions between the abolitionist North and the slaveholding South rose to a boil. By the end of his term, South Carolina had seceded from the Union, with ten other Southern states following suit shortly thereafter, as a result of the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln. These events were succeeded by the Civil War, which roared from 1861-1865.

James Buchanan

Buchanan was also well-known for one other notable fact. He is the only president to have never gotten married. No one knows for sure why he chose to remain a bachelor, but he was engaged to be married at a young age. In 1818, he met Anne Coleman, a wealthy daughter of an iron manufacturer, whose brother in law was Buchanan’s colleague in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. They were engaged to be married by 1819, but the two often quarreled. Buchanan seemed more interested in his budding political career than in spending time with her, and it has been speculated that Buchanan was solely marrying Coleman for her money. Anne soon broke off the engagement, and died in December 1819. The circumstances surrounding her death are suspiciously murky, but many thought of her death to be a suicide. Buchanan did not take her death well, and was barred from attending her funeral. In a letter to Coleman’s father, he wrote that “I feel happiness has fled from me forever.”

Anne Coleman
With a face like that, I’d have a hard time getting over her, too.

After Anne Coleman’s untimely death, Buchanan never courted another woman, nor did he show any interest in pursuing a romantic relationship with anybody. No one knows for sure why this is, but there is a persistent and unfounded rumor that Buchanan may have been a homosexual. It is thought of that he had an intimate relationship with William Rufus King, the man who would serve as the Vice President of his predecessor Franklin Pierce, albeit briefly. The two men lived together for 13 years and attended many functions together. Many people commented on their close relationship, including President Andrew Jackson, who called them effeminate names, and Tennessee governor, Aaron V. Brown, who often referred to King as “Buchanan’s better half.” No evidence of the two having a homosexual relationship exists, as the nieces of both men destroyed any correspondence between them upon their deaths.

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